Nastasia Wong knows a thing or two about adventures — and we’re not just talking about traveling the world. While her perfectly curated travel blog, Dame Traveler, is adored by many wandering women, her journey started with a major struggle. In fact, it was that same struggle that led her to her biggest success yet. Here, Nastasia tells us about overcoming obstacles, motivating yourself to pursue your passions, and giving yourself the adventure of a lifetime by doing what you enjoy.
Twitter or Instagram handle: @dametraveler
Location: Chicago, IL
Occupation: Founder of Dame Traveler, and Associate Content Producer at Orbitz Worldwide Headquarters
School: Loyola University Chicago
Secretly Obsessed With: The Bachelor (shhhh)
On My Nightstand: Bible and journal
Last Thing You Read: “A New Earth” by Eckhart Tolle
How did you get started?
I was inspired to start Dame Traveler after becoming a member of a travel and photography community via Instagram. I’ve met such awe-inspiring and creative individuals that share the same love and passion for the world as I do. I was also delighted to discover how many lady travelers are out there roaming around this world. Some travel part-time, and many are courageous enough to make traveling the world a full-time job!
In 2013 I had graduated nursing school, passed my state license to become an RN, just wrapped up getting married in Italy and there I was, stuck at home in the midst of one of the worst winters Chicago has ever witnessed and searching for nursing jobs. I kept catching myself drifting off and dreaming of faraway places and reminiscing on my past travels. Instagram was always my escape, living vicariously through people currently traveling. And so, I wanted a way to reconnect myself with my true passion. And what better way to do this than to connect with travelers around the globe? So I created the Dame Traveler Instagram account, a curated gallery shining light on some of the most beautifully crafted travel photographs of ladies traveling this world.
Since February 2014, the community has grown to over 50K followers and has expanded to a blogging platform,Dame Traveler. The blog features inspiring interviews, short stories and travel guides. It’s a place where ladies can inspire and be inspired by courage and travels.
Tell us about your daily routine.
I cannot possibly begin my day without coffee! I hurry up and brush my teeth so I can grab my first cup o’ joe. I am always eager to get out of bed and conquer the day, because when you do what you love, you don’t think twice about waking up early to create magic. I usually listen to music by William Fitzsimmons and Birdy to start off, and by mid-day, I mix it up and listen to more motivating music, such as “Hall of Fame” by The Script.
I always make time to hydrate myself throughout the day as well as take mini-breaks to meditate and nourish myself. Photography is my therapy, sometimes I go out and explore the beautiful city I live in and take photographs of my surroundings. It’s very therapeutic for me. I then spend the day running errands, checking email, spending time with my husband and unwinding with a glass of wine in the evening before drifting away to sleep!
What key elements played into your success?
Determination, persistence, and most importantly, passion. Passion drives success and gives you the drive you need to keep trying, even when the going gets tough.
What’s the best piece of advice you received?
It takes 20 years to make an overnight success—patience, my friend.
What struggles did you face getting to this point?
The struggles are endless! But I literally work harder every time I pick myself up from falling down. I graduated nursing school in May 2013 and began experiencing complications with my spinal fusion that was surgically placed at the age of 12 after being diagnosed with an 80-degree Scoliosis curvature. So there I was, one month into my first job as a registered nurse on the labor and delivery unit, when I was forced to resign. My physician told me that it was no longer safe for me to work as a nurse, and that I would have to resort to finding a non-physically intensive job, such as a desk job. Four years of blood, sweat, tears and pure dedication to the science of nursing to get to the point of not even being able practice the profession due to circumstances out of my hands.
However, I turned a negative into a positive and created Dame Traveler during the time I was on bed rest. Luckily, I’ve always had a creative side to me, and this circumstance led me down the path of what truly sparked the passion in my soul – travel. I picked up every book I saw on blogging, WordPress, etc. and taught myself the ins and outs. Before I knew it, I was launching my first blog and I had created everything myself, down to the logo! I truly believe that certain things are meant to happen to lead you down a different path. No regrets, just gratitude.
Who was the biggest influence in your professional life?
Myself. No one can motivate you, understand you and believe in you better than YOU!
What accomplishment are you most proud of? When do you feel most successful?
Ever since I could remember, it had always been a dream of mine to travel to Africa and volunteer abroad. When I decided it was finally time for me to make that dream come true, I could not find a single soul that would come along for the ride. And so, I fearlessly booked a ticket for two weeks on what would be my first solo adventure. I lived in a house along with 12 wonderful individuals from the UK, Sweden and Australia, making me the only American! We volunteered in an orphanage for two straight weeks, and those two weeks were the most life-changing days of my life. I consider that the my best accomplishment, because I gave a piece of my heart to those children and I threw fear to the wind and ventured off solo when I could have easily made the excuse that I could not find anyone to go with me. I feel most successful when I am giving my heart to people, and when I’m making them feel good about themselves.
What advice would you give to girls looking to enter your industry/space?
Pure dedication, faith and persistence. The perfect ingredients to make magic happen. Blogging is not easy; there are TONS of blogs out there, but if you can find a way to be unique in the process, people will love you for that. Don’t be afraid to break the mold and to try something new. And collaborate with other creatives as much as you can. You’d be surprised how many will take the time to hear you out. However, the key is to try.